When Justin Trudeau came to power last fall, the mere fact that the Canadian prime minister called himself a feminist and acknowledged climate science was celebrated around the world.
Among other promises, Trudeau pledged to transform Canada’s role in the world. He recently told the Toronto Star that the UN’s expectation that wealthy states spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid was “too ambitious” for Canada, but noted that he hopes to “invest smartly and responsibly in global issues.”
Global Affairs Canada is now reviewing its international assistance program and has been conducting consultations. Water is identified as a fundamental consideration as a key element in environmental sustainability and climate in the Global Affairs discussion paper regarding the review.
On the surface a greater focus on water-related assistance makes sense given the ever-deepening crisis in water scarcity and staggering lack of access to water and sanitation services. But a real transformation of Canada’s role in the world will require more than a shift in foreign aid spending and policy. It will require a deeper examination of the ways in which Canadian commercial interests are contributing to social, economic and environmental injustice in the world.
In their first month in office, the Trudeau government contributed $14.25 million to a World Bank initiative to promote private-public-partnerships (P3s) in Indonesia, including in the water sector.
Earlier that same year, the Indonesian Supreme Court had ruled that a 2004 World Bank imposed water law promoting privatization of services and greater corporate access to freshwater was anti-constitutional. The policy had led to large-scale destruction of watersheds and prevented poor people from exercising their human rights to water and sanitation.
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